Huzzah! Real cats! Though totally not interested in coming to say hello at all. I put my headphones on and snoozed through a podcast or two until eventually Russell appeared. He's the owner of this flat and, thankfully, was expecting to see me. As he entered the living room so did both Meowsy and Jesus, who were each now willing to come say hello given the approval of their carer.
We had a bit of a chat, about US politics and flying and champagne but actually Rusty had to go to work. What! Last I heard he didn't have a job, but apparently that's because I don't read Facebook or ever keep up with the goings on in my friends' lives and he's actually been working for 3 months or so. Well, fine. I guess I'd best amuse myself for the day.
I decided I'd quite like to spend the morning interacting with the cats; the cats decided otherwise, and after feeding time just pissed off out of the room. Bah. So amusing myself meant watching wrestling on my iPad. After NXT I put on a Ron Simmons interview and fell asleep for a bit. Upon waking I thought, sleeping at 11am is bad, I should do some day seizing.
One of the things I remember from last time I stayed with Russell, in 2011, was that he had a fantastic shower. What I hadn't noticed, though, is that this actually isn't the same flat as then. It's in the same building, but a different unit. His shower is much less awesome than before, and in fact it took me way too long to figure out how to even get warm water to come out. Bleurgh. But anyway, once I was clean and emerged, both cats had appeared and decided to start giving and demanding attention. Bit late for that, you awkward things.
So by now it's just gone midday and I've got 5 or so hours to do stuff. I'd looked at how to buy public transport tickets in San Francisco, which I used to know off the top of my head because back in 2007-10 I was visiting pretty regularly. But memory was playing tricks on me, there's no ticket that lets me on both the Muni and BART systems so I thought, fuck it, it's a sunny day anyway, I'll walk.
Ordinarily I wouldn't have imposed on anyone but stayed in a hotel, but when I booked the flights I picked the dates based only on the fact that Mark was also going to visit SF on the same dates. What neither of us noticed, though, was that the first week in February 2016 is Super Bowl week and all hotels are insanely daft expensive. So thank fuck for Russell's hospitality.
Google told me it was around 3 miles to get from the flat to the Embarcadero down at the end of Market, where I could find Super Bowl city. I thought it would be nice to see how the Americans do their big sporting event hysteria, and besides, it's a free thing to do that's pretty unique. Super Bowl 50 seems like a big deal.
The flat is in the mission district, so the first bit of the walk is largely past hipster outlets and taquerias. I really could go a burrito, but not yet. I fight through the crowds outside the Betabrand shop, which is actually the company Russell works for, and further up Valencia I pop into a corner store for a Diet Coke and protein bar. Within a couple more blocks all hipstery niceness has disappeared and there's a flyover and some homeless folk with shopping trolleys and a really shady looking Travelodge at the junction with Market.
Market St is kinda a big deal. It's the delineating factor between numerous districts, north and south, and generally a big artery of the city. The homelessness district gives way to the Twitter office district, where all the men are bearded and thick rimmed. I wonder if I could blag my way in.
My strategy for looking like I don't want to be fucked with is to wear headphones, and it's working a treat. I'm listening to Steve Austin interview Jerry Only from the Misfits, who makes for an entertaining listen but my god he's a bizarre and contradictory man.
After a while I reach Powell, the BART station which s normally my entry point to the city and is right next to the cable car turnaround. Who goes to SF and doesn't take a photo of the cable cars each time? Not me. The streets are very full of people wearing numbered sports shirts, as well as the occasional one which betrays a team or player allegiance. Every lamp post is adorned with a Super Bowl 50 sign and most shops are getting in on the act in one way or another, generally by selling Pepsi.
There's a pub called "Beer" which sells loads of beer and related paraphernalia, but I refuse to go in because of a rogue apostrophe on its tasting menu.
Alcatraz looks great, like I said.
Where'd everyone go?
SF's skyline isn't exactly New York, but I still love it.
San Francisco's skies are full of helicopters advertising shit beer and there's a genuine Goodyear blimp, which makes me smile. By now it's, I dunno, 2.30pm or something. Other than that Diet Coke and protein bar I've had fuck all today, and this is becoming a bit of a problem. I could really do with something to eat and drink, so I walk further along into Fisherman's Wharf, trying to remember the pub I went to a few years ago. But I give up on that idea when I spot Taylor St which, if memory serves, is the Taylor from the Bay & Taylor junction where one of the cable car routes finishes.
Back down to Columbus and a few more blocks I'm at some park (Washington?). There's a pretty cathedral, and that there Rogue Ales place. Excellent, now I can finally have a sit down and some calories.
Inside there is no space to sit at the counter, and a sign saying please seat yourself, we'll bring you beer. So I sit down and browse the menu, which looks great. No-one comes to serve me, however. I wander up to the bar and am impressed by the imperial stout festival they currently have going on, but no punters want to shift for me and no bar staff seem able to see me. The lack of calories has me cranky anyway so this is the last straw and I just leave without getting anything. Bah. I'd been in a great mood until then.
Back outside and continuing along Columbus, nowhere tempts me in as a place where I want to eat or drink. So I just keep walking, past a zillion Italians until oh look, there's Chinatown. San Francisco's Chinatown is seriously Chinese, all the road signs and shops and stuff barely have any English. It also smells like Hong Kong. There's what seems to be a bookmakers, which I thought were illegal; I actually think it's a place which sells nothing but scratch cards. It's very busy.
This is Grant St, which seems to be Chinatown's main artery. I'm not in the mood for Chinese food and anyway everything's a bit too proper restauranty. Really I just want a bar which will sell me a sandwich or something. At the end of Grant I go past the gate and make a right, towards Tunnel Top. Had Mark made it to SF we'd have been meeting for a pint here; had it been open I'd have gone in solo. But it wasn't open, so I carried on and made a left down the really steep Powell St, next to the cable cars and the road I used to walk each time I visited when Yahoo! put me up in what's now the Marriott.
I've never played shuffleboard before and don't know the rules. It's basically mini-curling, without brushes. I get a very nice beer and we play doubles with some friends of Russell's who happen to already be incumbent on the board. My few warm up shuffles are terrible but fuck it, let's do this. Russell and I win the first two ends, scoring 1 point each time, and then comes the bit where I gauge strength so perfectly that I end up pushing our opponents pucks(?) over the edge and into gloriously winning positions. They score 6 and 4 in the next two ends, fucking god damn it. We're playing first to 15 and they've gone from being 2-0 down to 10-2 up in no time at all.
I think we end up losing 17-2 or so. Humiliated. I'm told I didn't do badly for a first timer, but that's total bullshit. Look at the score! Though really I was pretty unlucky to knock them into winning positions rather than off the edge. Whatever. It's a good game, but we have other sports to play and so piss off towards Urban Putt. Literally as we exit we bump into the Priest, or "t'other Darren" as we each refer to one another. Huzzah! Now let's go play golf.
Actually, fuck it, let's have some beer served in jam jars with handles first. Bloody hipsters. It's some kind of stout, and really nice, one of those moments which keep happening this year where I wish I wasn't playing the don't-drink-the-same-beer-twice game. But anyway.
You can't take booze on the course, so we finish the drinks and go get some balls and clubs, and play a round of crazy golf. It's fucking brilliant. Each hole is really inventive and unlike pretty much any I've ever seen, but still recognisably difficult. One of them is a game of Labyrinth, one is in a submarine with levers that make depth charge sounds, one of them is a video game hybrid, and several of them have this kinda Heath Robinson shit going on where the ball is transported through gizmos and stuff before coming out of random holes.